Senators float trade sanctions against Russia over Snowden

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a State Department funding bill with a provision aimed at pressuring Russia to reject asylum for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

The provision, authored by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Graham on the impeachment inquiry: 'I made my mind up. There's nothing there' Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption MORE (R-S.C.), was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It states that if Snowden is granted asylum, then the secretary of State must consult with Congress on possible sanctions.

“The Committee notes that certain countries have offered asylum to Edward Snowden, an American citizen who divulged classified information to the press. The Committee directs the Secretary of State to consult with the appropriate congressional committees on sanction options against any country that provides asylum to Mr. Snowden, including revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences,” the Graham amendment states.

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The language of the Graham amendment stops well short of actually imposing sanctions. Furthermore, Russia is now a member of the World Trade Organization, so trade sanctions by the U.S. could invite WTO-approved retaliation.

Graham has been a leading critic of Russia's handling of Snowden, and has said President Obama should consider boycotting the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia, if the country decides to harbor him.

Snowden remains at an airport in Moscow and is seeking documents to travel in Russia.

Graham's sanctions provision is now part of the Senate’s funding bill for the State Department in 2014, which was approved by the full committee on Thursday.

Overall, the State Department and foreign operations appropriations title spends $50.6 billion. That is $10 billion more than the House is proposing, but a cut of $2.7 billion from 2013.

The bill passed committee on a 23 to 7 vote.

Seven Republicans joined Democrats in approving the bill, underscoring GOP divisions on spending cuts to the budget next year. They were: Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump MORE (Maine), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (Miss.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Pay America's Coast Guard MORE (Alaska), Graham, Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBottom Line Trump faces serious crunch in search for new Homeland Security leader Feehery: How Republicans can win back the suburbs MORE (Ill.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden MORE (Mo.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number Overnight Defense: Top diplomat changes testimony to indicate quid pro quo | Dem offers measure on Turkish human rights abuses in Syria | Warren offers plan to address veteran suicide rates Senate bill takes aim at 'secret' online algorithms MORE (Kan.)

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Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he voted against the bill because it contributes to a $1.058 trillion topline level of 2014 spending that exceeds the level imposed by sequestration.

Graham said he is proud of the bill and especially new restrictions on aid to Egypt after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

“Is it a coup? Sounds like it to me,” he said. “Having said that Egypt was running down a dangerous road under Morsi.”

The bill divides up the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt into four pieces and conditions 75 percent of it of various democratization steps.

The committee adopted several controversial amendments.

One, adopted by a 19 to 11 vote, was authored by Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (D-La.) would allow funding for UNESCO for a specific Louisiana project, despite a ban on UNESCO dealings due to their recognition of Palestine.

Another, passed 17 to 12, would fund International Criminal Court efforts to prosecute Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

Finally an amendment by Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Overnight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring MORE (D-N.H.) would permanently end the so-called global gag rule that, before suspended by President Obama, would cut off funding for international groups that also promote abortion.

It passed 19 to 11.